Exceptional Tween Mood Swings-5 Tools To Survive Them And Thrive As An Exceptional Family

So it’s another late afternoon at my home and Michael is angry about something small that I said that sounds like it is a criticism of him, his way of doing things, or simply a “less try things differently” approach. I am getting better at going with the flow with Michael’s mood swings. There is the I like you Mom, I don’t mind being in the same room as you Mom. This lasts about ten minutes a day, to you’re ok, but don’t try and hug or touch me, give me a high five if you’re proud of me, to get away from me and trying to control my life as you want me to stop watching my videos now! Yep. And because he’s exceptional, the rebellion is quite over the top.  A book gets tossed across the room, a swear word (or words) are uttered, and repeatedly Michael will say things like I want to be with  my friends, stop being critical or the eye rolling. I almost laugh at that one. Yep. It’s all normal, relatively speaking.

So, back to the tween mood swings and how I survive them? They are quite similar to what my mother and father used back in the day, only tweaked for exceptional kids.  Here they are:

1) Make sure to keep your sense of humor: I know. Your exceptional tween is having the meltdown of a century, how  do you laugh or even begin to? Well, you may not laugh during or right after it, but later on you remember the tumultuous hormones that is puberty. You remember how confused you were as a neuro typical youngster, imagine your child. You also say that this is just a phase. Sooner or later they will outgrow it like they did toddler and preschool behavior. And then you pour yourself a cup of coffee or wine (depending on the time of day), and say to yourself, “this too shall pass.”

2) Put yourself in their shoes: This is similar to number 1, but also a little different. Remember not feeling like you knew who you were? Remember, feeling so alone and frustrated and hormonal? Well, your exceptional child has this and their different brain affecting their outlook on the world. In Michael’s case, ASD, ADHD, and Type 1 Diabetes. In your child’s case, whatever challenges they face. Be patient. Give them opportunities to try again. Don’t enable them or have them use their neuro diversity and challenges as an excuse, but make sure they know they can learn and grow from their behavioral mistakes.

3) Give them space to physically and mentally vent: This is a work in progress as their interests change, but it is important for all kids to have a space in the house to let loose. Physically vent means they can have places to scream, punch a pillow, jump on a trampoline, cry, or do whatever they need to do to release pent up emotions. Mentally vent, make sure they have a journal or place to draw or sketch how they feel. Make sure when they and you are calm, the two of you can sit down and talk together about what happened. It’s important you both learn from your mistakes.

4) They are communicating! Yes!: Again, a day ago when my tween was angry and yelling at me I would not have been enthusiastically preaching this, but afterwards when he calmed down and regrouped, I realized that a meltdown, an outburst, or any display of emotion means that they are authentically communicating their needs to you and you know what they need to work on (and you too). Celebrate this and move forward with your team. Your child is telling you how they feel!

5) Self-Care: I’ve said this time and time again and will continue to do so, but only when parents are taking care of their needs (physical, mental, spiritual), can they parent from their soul and see the child as a whole. If you are tired, frustrated, depleted, you will not be strong enough to help your child through any crises. Self-care does not have to be fancy. Taking time to curl up and watch a favorite tv show, read a good book, spend time with your partner and friends, take a bath or a walk and exercise, are all important to overall mental well-being. I can’t emphasize enough how much guided meditations help too. For me, they saved my life and showed me how to remain in the moment with Michael. When I have forgotten, I would immediately think about breathing and refocusing my energy. I also would ask myself, when was the last time I had “me” time?

Exceptional Parents, how do you survive the tough times? We all have tricks of the trade, as they say. As long as they speak to what works for you as a parent and individual, you are on the right track. Until next time.



My Exceptional Easter Surprise

So as I’ve mentioned a few times already, the last two weeks, and particularly this week, has been a challenging one for Michael, Dad and I. Lots of anxiety and anger coming out of Michael. A lot of conflict and difficult with self-regulation too. But, I have also had some great conversations with him about using strategies, helping himself to calm down and think before acting, and today, two times, he surprised me at the beginning of this long Easter weekend. Can anyone guess what the surprise was? He said, not once but two times, I miss you when you are not home Mommy and I like spending time with you. Ahhh. Just when I’ve had a day where everything I asked Michael elicited a surly or angry response, so much so I would jokingly say to myself when he was quiet in his room several times today, Shh, Joanne.Don’t wake the beast.

I will be going to church this evening for Good Friday, and this is when Michael said what he said. He also shocked me by asking if he could come with me to church. I told him, of course, but reminded him that he would need to behave. He has not been coming with me to church as he is in full rebellion about his spiritual beliefs at the moment, but the fact that he expressed interest in coming (it is the youth of our church putting on the Passion Play), filled me with hope that he is thinking about things and wondering about other paths, no matter what he decides to do in the end. He also asked me about Heaven today, and if I thought he would go there. He was worried due to his angry and aggressive behavior. Of course I told him that God forgives and that he should never be worried that he is not loved. He said, good, I want to go where you and Daddy are going. This would have been beautiful any weekend, but this long Easter weekend is especially touching as I know he is struggling a lot in puberty now and with figuring out who he is. Dad and I are always talking to him, showing him we are there to help guide him through anything, but the teen years are trying ones. His reaching out even through the hard moments in the last week, shows me my little big boy and how he is forging ahead to make sense of his world on his own, making sure that no matter what, we are still there for him.

Michael has also asked quite a few times this week if I am proud of him, after he did something well. I told him I was, and know he can make good choices. This reminded me that I needed to catch him being good more often so to re-affirm a positive message and bonding with him, not just on holiday weekends. He needs reassurance Dad and I are always there for him and helping him learn and grow in a positive way.

Exceptional Parents,  in hard times do you still remember to catch your Exceptional Child making good choices? If not, it’s never too late to start. They will gravitate to making better choices if they receive positive affirmation. The thing is, even when they are pushing you away, they still need and want you in their life. They need you to be strong enough to say I am not going anywhere. I love you and will always fight for you. They need to know you treasure them as much as they treasure you. Wishing you all a Happy Easter long weekend!

Staying Calm Through Your Exceptional Child’s Storms- How You Can Bring Them Back To Themselves

Tonight was one of those nights I was hoping were behind Michael and I. It was a night where Michael totally lost it, his temper, his sense of control, and his ability to use his strategies to calm down. He had had an aggressive outburst with me after school, and even the way he has been talking this week is fueled with aggression and anxiety. I’m sure the new medication for focus is a major reason, but he has argued with me that it is helping him. I see improvements in other areas, so I have been watching and waiting to see if it is truly working and if he is better off overall being on it. What has NOT been happening though, is Michael using strategies to calm down anger and anxiety when he starts escalating. In the winter time, he was using the Zones of Regulation with strategies to find a balance. In the last two weeks particularly, he has been struggling greatly at regulating himself. Then we introduce a medication with possible side effects of aggression, loss of appetite and insomnia and BINGO he gets the aggression one. It has been hard to handle for all of us.

I was emailing his psychiatrist to express my concerns, when he started mouthing off at me and getting upset. I had just come in from an outing with him so told him to stay with his father while I went downstairs as I needed a break. I needed physical space away to breathe and not let his anxiety and anger take me along with him, and as Dad had not seen him all night, I figured this would be an opportunity for them to talk and Michael to calm down. Instead what happened was that Michael escalated more . Dad was tired as I was the night before and could not help.  I raced up the stairs two at a time and got Michael to his bedroom after he had banged the wall a few times, shouted horrible things and been jumping up and down so hard I thought the floors would break in half. We got to his bedroom and he was still yelling.  I kept repeating, “Michael breathe. Michael breathe.” And I stayed with him. It was scary. In the past though, after we talked about it, Michael would say, “I needed you there at the beginning to remind me what to do. I forget Mommy. I can’t do it alone.”

So I stayed and eventually the screaming and cursing stopped, and I heard two big breaths. Then two more as he held my hands and breathed with me.  I knew he would be ok. Then, when he was able to express remorse for what he had said and done, I told him he was forgiven. I also reminded him though, that he needed to use strategies to calm down as soon as he started feeling himself getting upset and anxious about anything. We talked about what could work, what doesn’t work, and what may work. He came out of his room realizing that depending on what the doctor recommended, he may be on a lower dose or off the current medication for focus and hyperactivity.

I was proud of the fact that even though he was saying and doing some pretty scary things I kept in mind three things- 1) my child was out of control 2) my child did not mean what he was saying and 3) my child needed me to be the calm one through it all, no matter what. I was happy to say I was successful, and he finished his bed routine  promising me he’d find new positive strategies to help with anxiety and anger. You see, I learned that his old ones did not help anymore and he said, “When I let myself get really angry and let it out, I feel better.” I agreed it’s good to let anger out, but not when you become physically or verbally dangerous to people around you. After I explained it that way, Michael understood and said he would do better. I know he will. My heart breaks for him that finding balance is so hard- balance in focus, balance in controlling emotions, balance in life. His brain works differently than mine, and he has so many incredible things to share, but the fact he is always ON definitively takes its toll on him and those around him. I am learning how to respect who Michael is while respecting myself and finding a compromise so both of us can respect each other’s differences and learn from one another.

Exceptional Parents, how have you managed to support your Exceptional Child when they have been in crisis? If you stayed calm, congratulations. The best thing an exceptional child can have is a parent who is a calm, safe haven for them when they are in turmoil. As much as you are unraveling, knowing that you’ve got their back, will often help them find the strength to try again. Also never forget that no matter what your child says or does when angry, it is not who they are. It is their reaction to whatever stressor provoked them. Be patient and loving. Unconditional love, having ways to talk together and strategies to handle stress, will be the ultimate thing that will help you both in the end. Until next time.


How To Regroup And Forgive Your Old Reactions To Exceptional Parenting Stress

The last week has had its challenges in our household. Michael is trying a new medication for his ADHD to help with focus in school. I was told that any differences, either good or bad, would be noticed in the first few days of taking it. Let’s just say we have seen a little bit of both kinds of differences, though I am not fully convinced it is not working, but questioning if it is. That has been part of the problem. Michael is telling me how it is becoming easier for him to focus at school, and that he rocks and claps his fidget a little less than before. However, at home he is more outspoken and easily angered than he was prior to taking the medication. I am conflicted. The fights and the repetitive nature of what he is saying to set me off, have me believe it is more than provocative behavior, yet that is what provocative behavior is, right? I also don’t want him on too many medications, unless they are working. As a result of my conflicted feelings and worries, my patience has not been the best the last few days. We have had some fights. I have reacted in ways I am not proud of. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this way at home. I thought I’d said goodbye to the easily provoked Mom who became frustrated with her hyper active tween, and inadvertently triggered him by some of her comments. Last night after Michael finally went to bed because on top of a fight he also had low blood sugar and needed to wait to retest before having his bedtime injection, I went downstairs and started researching the medication he was on. I also researched ADHD some more, to try and understand this different brain that is so like and unlike autism.

I realized I had come far away from listening to my child over the last week. I was too busy worrying if the medication was right, if he was having side effects, if it would counteract with his insulin and other medication, that I forgot to trust in two very important things-Michael’s instinct about how he feels and my own about my son. I was so busy worrying if the outbursts at home were due to the new medication and if we should stop it, that I was tuning out Michael saying he is feeling good, and to please try it for a little longer. Strangely, as much as end of day has its challenges, Michael actually seems happier since he started the medication and more organized with getting ready for school, bed and other activities. We are having less fights about sequencing stuff. So what does this mean? I think that sometimes as parents we stress so much about every little thing and read too much into things being one way. It’s important not to micromanage too much, step back, and listen for your child’s feedback, especially if they are on medication and are older. They can tell you how they feel.

It’s also ok to occasionally slip up and get angry. You’ll move forward into a calm and zen way of parenting your exceptional child then something stressful will occur and you may temporarily fall back on old habits. Don’t stress. Recognize the angry and scared part of yourself. Nurture it. Forgive yourself your mistake, and apologize to your child. Michael and I both spoke about our mistakes, and and Michael said to me this morning, “Today we start fresh Mommy, right?” Of course, I answered right away.

Exceptional Parents, do you ever feel that making a mistake in how you react to your child is the end of the world? It’s not. It just means that you need to do some more nurturing towards yourself and your fears and worries. It also means that you could be tired and need a break. It’s ok if you feel provoked by your child on occasion. Use the mistake as a learning experience for yourself to get stronger, as well as to show your child that we can grow and become stronger after moving on from mistakes. Tomorrow is always another day after all. Until next time.


Those Happy Tears And The Wonders Your Exceptional Child Shows You

This week I had three moments when I experienced tears of joy  as a Mom. One was when I saw the latest book of handwriting and penmanship from school. Seeing how far Michael had progressed in his printing left me speechless. There was a time I thought he would never learn to write. So glad I didn’t let my own fears stand in my way. Michael, as usual, surpassed even my expectations as I’ve seen his progress through the years. The next moment I cried was when he spoke to me about the importance of his stimming. My son is starting to advocate for himself. It was absolutely beautiful to experience. And finally, Michael told me that he may be chosen to be a class reader over the school for literacy month as his reading is so good. I immediately told him, “Wow! I am so proud of you!” Michael’s response was, a little bit of shock and awe, “Really? You’re proud of me Mommy?” And I could hear his pride and happiness that I was proud of him. I know his posturing about not needing Dad or I, not wanting us to hug him etc. is all part of him trying to find himself and make his own identity in growing up, but still I was happy to see he still valued our opinions and was reminded how important it is to tell our kids we love them and are proud of them.
“But I may not get chosen.” He said all earnestly.
“It doesn’t matter. You are being considered. I am proud of your hard work at school. You are a smart and wonderful kid.”
He beamed, I beamed, and I asked his permission to share all of us in the blog tonight. He gave his permission. 🙂 There are still challenging moments, and Michael, like all teenagers, can say some pretty hurtful or insensitive things at times. It’s all relative though, and I don’t REALLY take it personally, but I tell him he needs to be respectful. He is, for the most part. So when we have a week where I can celebrate these positive milestones then, wow, it is great!

Exceptional Parents, what tear jerking moments do you have with your Exceptional Children? Do they come as a surprise or do you anticipate them? The important thing to do is mark them by words of appreciation to your child, and while you are at it, give yourselves a pat on the back for a job well done as their parent. It’s not easy riding the highs and lows of exceptional parenting, but you manage and in turn teach your exceptional child to manage their highs and lows too knowing that they are loved, respected and thought of highly in all their personal efforts. Until next time.

Connecting With Your Exceptional Child By Accepting ALL Of Their Quirks

Tonight after Michael finished having his hair cut at the children’s hairdresser I still take him to, he turned to me and told me, “I need to stim Mommy. I can’t stim properly in the car with it moving and on the bus the kids tell me to stop.”

He was clapping his hands quite loudly with his hands fidget, and as always I worried that it might disturb people in the hair salon though there was just two other families there. I very gently gave him a deadline of another minute and told him we could continue when he got home.
“That’s not enough time. The salon is open till nine o’clock tonight. We can stay till nine, right?”

I knew it would not take till nine, but I also did not want to leave the time open ended.

“No, Michael. We can’t stay till nine. I have things to do at home. A minute more and that’s it. You can finish stimming when we get home.”
Michael started swearing and posturing. I saw an escalation happening in the hairdresser, so calmly responded in a low voice.
“I don’t like that language. It is inapropriate. I don’t mind going back to the car and waiting with the motor off for you to finish your stimming, but we need to leave now and you need to calm down.”

I waited to see how he would react. He calmed down, and immediately responded.

Really? Ok, sure Mommy.” And off we went. Michael happily walked to the car and once in the car did his stimming for about five minutes until he announced he was finished. Then, interestingly he asked me a question:

“Mommy, do you get upset when I stim?”

I couldn’t help but think back to a conversation I’d had with a Mom friend the night before, about our sons with autism and stimming, and how much we had hated it at the beginning as it reminded us that they were different, and of course , we wanted to change our kids, make them something they weren’t for we feared society accepting them for who they were.  Those were the days when I thought autism was a bad thing. I later learned it was not the case. Autism is who my son is and is beautiful. I wouldn’t change him for anything in the world. I e’d come a long way since then.  So had she. We laughed about it.

However, I still did worry when Michael stimmed in public. I worried about people underestimating him for what he could do if they judged the stimming. I worried about mean comments being made towards him. Though this has not happened as more and more people GET autism now, I still worry, so public stimming is still something I am working on understanding and as much as possible, letting Michael do what he needs to do to regulate everywhere. I am starting to watch other adult autistic videos where they are teaching me how to understand Michael better. I so appreciate their guidance. I answered him;

“No, Michael. It doesn’t bother me when you stim. You need to do it for your health and I know it helps you feel happy and healthy. You do need to find places where it is easier to do it though, as sometimes it can be noisy to other people. But, I will always understand if you need to do it.”
Michael smiled and said he was ready to go. Later at the house while he was getting ready for bed, he again surprised me by saying;

“Why do you talk firmly to me? You can’t do that because I have autism. It’s hard for me to get ready for bed on time.”
I looked at him and smiled; “Nice try. But I was speaking firmly as you were stalling to get ready for bed and me being firm reminding you of your bedtime schedule is because I love you and want you to get rest. Plus, don’t blame your autism on you stalling. That would be an insult to you and all autistic people who are smart creative individuals.”

Michael  admitted he had been stalling, then said;

” I know Mommy. You understand my autism and ADHD quite well. Daddy too.”
“And I am doing my best to keep learning Michael.”

After that the rest of the routine went well, and Michael turned in on time for bed.

What did this show me? This showed me that in spite of rough moments (Michael testing with language and aggressive talk), I could still show Michael my love of him in all moments, while being firm and setting some boundaries in how he needs to respect those around him too. Yes, autistic brains are different, but it does not mean that rules don’t apply. Michael asked me as well tonight, do I love him even when he is angry? He worries when we have tough challenging moments like this morning when he got angry at what I packed him for lunch and tonight when he was upset that I was redirecting him where to stim. I answered yes, of course. I love him no matter what and I will always help him. It’s important when our kids struggle emotionally and behaviorally that they know there is acceptance from parents no matter what. Of course there needs to be boundaries too and rules made to protect them. But if you show your child love with rules they cannot break, you will strike the right balance.

Exceptional Parents, do you show and tell your Exceptional Child you love them even when they mess up? Do you accept the whole package of your child, even what is hard for you to process? If not, it’s ok. Most of us are neuro typical, and it takes time to understand a different brain that is autism adhd or other different ways of seeing the world. Above all, show your child support for who they are, remind them you love them, and learn all you can about how they think and why. The interest you will show will make a massive improvement in your child’s outlook, and help them feel better about being who they are in the world teaching them strategies to help them get along and advocate for themselves one day. Until next time.

What Spending Time With Your Exceptional Child May Look Like At Different Ages

Bonding with our exceptional kids is so important, but often parents don’t know how to go about doing it. It’s not that our children don’t want to spend time with us, but they show their love in different ways because they see the world differently than we do. To make matters more confusing, is that a small exceptional child will want to do different things with you as a parent than a tween or older exceptional child. A small child may enjoy cuddling on your lap, playing with you at a park, having you take him/her on a play date. A tween child will enjoy talking to you and asking you lots of questions, want you to give them your time when they need it, and want you to drive them to friends’ houses or parks and stay clear of them. An older child will need you to listen to them and guide them, but will want as much independence as possible.

In the end, what matters is that you find a way to connect with your child and that no matter what form it takes, don’t judge it or your relationship. Some kids thrive on a parent/child movie night once a week or a dinner out. Some take a class together. No matter what, in the end you need to show your child they are a priority in your life. In our family, Michael the navigator loves to go on  drives. He does this with Dad and I. By using strategies and controlling his anger he has been working for longer and longer drives which he does with Dad on the weekend. With me, there are trips to his favorite stores and soon long walks outside. It’s important you find a way to bond with your kids to show them their priority in your life.

With our exceptional kids, this will most likely look different than it would with a neuro typical child. Michael’s long walks are on busy streets as he enjoys talking with me and stimming to traffic. Some with long drives. Dad and I understand this, and want Michael to be comfortable in his own skin and with us, so we will do this. It keeps the doors of communication open.

Exceptional Parents, how do you bond with your Exceptional Child whatever age they are? Remember, no one knows your child like you do. You know what makes them tick so don’t be afraid to make suggestions on what the two of you can do together, keeping in mind their overall needs. The priceless bonding will be wonderful for everyone. Until next time.

Nature As An Exceptional Healer-Why I Come Back Again and Again

So this weekend I did another walk in my favorite nature park. It seems that the older I get, the more I appreciate connecting to the earth, air, water, trees and the beauty all around us when we are outside. I used to take Michael on these nature walks with me, but now he is more into walking in heavier traffic areas as he loves cars and navigating. But once in a while I have managed to lure him to come with me on a walk in a small forest, near a lake or a park where we could then throw a ball back and forth and talk. One particular memory I had at the beginning of last fall was Michael having an intense anxiety attack. We got into the car and I brought him to a favorite park of mine and convinced him to try a walk in the forest as nothing else was working to calm him down. Within five minutes of walking and talking about his fears, I felt something release from his body. Tension seemed to evaporate. He then told me that he felt calmer, more relaxed and better about the problem. I know the combination of exercise, talking to a loved one AND being outside helped, but I still remember a magic in how quickly he calmed down.

It’s been a challenge getting the tween Michael to come with me on nature walks. On a positive note, it means I get to enjoy them alone, at my own pace, and go to both the forest AND by the lake to center my thoughts and mood. Both places help me depending on what I am trying to figure out and where I am in my life. I decided in 2019 that I would try and do regular nature walks, preferably once a week or bi monthly on the weekend weather permitting of course, in all seasons. What has happened? Well, it has transformed me physically like meditation has done psychologically and spiritually. When you release endorphins and learn to live in the moment, it can only help you feel better about your life and the lives of those around you. You begin to parent from a whole other perspective. Also on those days when your child is giving you a hard time, you will have more energy to handle the stress. When you lose it, you will know it is due to not centering yourself in the moment, finding the peace inside that you find when in nature, and seeing your child’s struggle from that same place. We all want to do well, kids and adults alike. It’s important we connect to ourselves first and foremost to help bring out peace in others.

Exceptional Parents, do you spend time outdoors in nature alone and with your children? If you do not, why not try a short walk to a park, a walk around the block, and even just taking a drive and then getting out of the car and sitting by a lake or a beautiful green view. It will do more for your spirit than anything else. It will help you see the wonder of what is around you, and that you,  I, and our children are part of this wonder. Together, we can all become whole inside if we nurture experiencing the beauty around us when we live in the present moment and appreciate the beauty in front of us. Until next time.

How Gratitude Opens You Up As An Exceptional Parent

Parenting Michael has been nothing but not interesting. We have had many ups and downs on the road of exceptional family life as I’ve shared in this blog, but one thing that has truly struck me as extraordinary has been how practicing gratitude in the rest of my life by meditating on my blessings, has helped me see all sides of Michael’s character (as well as my own) in a whole new way. It is so tempting when things are stressful or going wrong with you or your child to think all of life is doomed or that things will never be calm and happy again. This is so not true. Life, like our kids, always has its ups and downs. By practicing being grateful for the small and big things in our lives as human beings, all our lives, as individuals, parents, partners, friends etc., we are opening ourselves up to seeing everything in a more positive frame or in a growth framework.

Michael has made MASSIVE improvements in how he has been learning to self-regulate. He has grown up a lot too and shows greater maturity in how he is handling everything in his life these days. But what has helped me see all of this has been my own massive growth as an individual. Through meditating, nature walks, writing, going regularly to a spa or soaking in a bath to connecting with like minded women friends, I have been finding my center. I have been rediscovering who I am deep inside and the blessings I want to remember each day and share with the world. I know that the way I am living my life is reflecting this as I have received a lot of, “you radiate a positive energy” “you are always happy and calm.” I also think that Michael senses this ease in my mind and attitude. It has helped our relationship a lot too as it takes another turn where Michael moves away from being dependent on me for everything and moving towards relying on himself to make decisions. Yet, he still knows I am there to bounce ideas off of. I think he senses I am calmer to do this with. I do my best to reiterate this calm attitude to him by talking about my personal self-care strategies that help me be strong. Michael knows I start the day with meditation and usually yoga stretches, and that meeting my writer and Mom friends are at the top of my list of priorities for self-care. They all make up my list of things to be grateful for. Family is also on that list, and I make sure to stay in touch as much as I can with family so that Michael knows he has a center and a lot to be grateful for.

Exceptional Parents, how has gratitude or showing gratitude changed you as a parent? Do you parent better when you count your blessings? Of course you do! Don’t ever be afraid, especially in the more difficult times of parenting your child, to look at the silver lining. This does not make you unrealistic about your life or your child’s. It reminds you that though there are hardships in your child’s life and yours, you also have many beautiful happy moments in your life that complete your journey as a human being. You can share this gratitude with your child and then they will learn about balancing all emotions in life. Until next time.

How To Make Sure Your Child Does Not Use Their Different Brain As A Cop Out On Life

“Mommy, I have ADHD and Autism, right?”
“Yes, Michael.”
“So it’s ok if I’m late to activities sometimes, because it’s hard for me to get organized.”
As usual, Michael was one step ahead of me, and now I had to think of how to answer this question without enabling him when maybe unintentionally I was partly responsible for this mindset.

“Yes, organization can be hard for you, and your brain works differently buddy. But you don’t get a free pass to be late to things because you have a different brain.”
“Oh, ok Mommy.”

This was how many of our conversations went these days. Michael and I were having quite a lot of conversations along this bent. When I made the decision to tell him about his autism when he asked me what autism was and did he have it at eight years old, I did not think I would be opening up a whole lot more than I thought at the time. Michael has been asking this version of the question since he was eight years old and trying at times, smart as he is, to use his different brain to catch a break. Dad and I have not been letting him do this though, as long as we see that he is legitimately able to cope. Now, I’m not saying that we do not try and avoid situations that could trigger a sensory overload and prepare for them. If long lines are forecast for future events, I plan to call ahead and mention Michael’s difficulty with that due to his autism and adhd, but this would not mean that I would tell him that he could get away with rudeness, aggression or disorganization in society. For Michael, sometimes the supports we have in place to help him understandably make him think he is totally different from other kids and different rules apply. But, as he gets older, we are reminding him that he is just as capable to be organized like others. He is smart, well mannered, and has strengths and weaknesses as kids do who do not have autism or different brains.

Dad and I also remind him that others know he struggles in certain areas and are there to help, not in pity but in support. Others understand he wants and deserves to be a part of any activity, job and societal event that he enjoys, but they are looking to him to show them how he needs to be treated and responded to. There are some who understand him, and others who still need to be enlightened. Above all, Dad and I are telling people around us how proud we are of how far Michael has gone and how much farther we know he’ll go. Kids with autism need the same amount of love, support, encouragement and gentle pushes to get out in the world, take risks, and learn from their mistakes. They also cannot have different life rules. They need to do their school work, participate in social exchanges in a calm and respectful way, and deserve friends who cherish them like the amazing people they are. This all comes with rules they must follow just like the rest of us.

So therein begins the gentle tightrope balancing act of some help (depending on the child and what they are), with expectations that they must meet in order to find their way in the world. Our kids can do this,  all to a different degree of course, but as parents advocating for our child’s challenges and getting them to overcome them comes first. Then, it is showing the world their amazing uniqueness and what they could bring into society. Finally, it is showing our kids how to give back to the world so that they will see they are a part of something bigger. Until next time.